Monday, July 23, 2007


One thing that's interesting about traveling is how the food culture changes from place to place. In Pisa and Marseille, and really, Tuscany and Provence in general, it's very similar, a Mediterranean culture that really takes pride in its cuisine and time over meals- often to the exclusion of other cuisines- i.e., you're not going to find many ethnic restaurants - maybe one or two Chinese, one or two Indian, and a few middle eastern places, usually all pretty mediocre.

In the two day interlude I had in Geneva in between, I ate mostly at the home of my mom's old school friend (man, was it nice to eat home-cooked Indian- watching the Federer-Nadal Wimbledon final, eating pakoras [deep fried vegetable fritters] with spicy chutney and drinking beer is about as good as it gets) and at ethnic restaurants (Chinese, Indian)- so I didn't really get much of a sense of the food culture.

Israel, where I am now, is still on the Mediterranean, has a much more "American" food culture- fast food being very popular- of course fast food here is mainly falafel, pita, hummus, kebabs, shawarma, etc. I don't really know what the ethnic food (i.e., other than middle-eastern) situation here is, but I did have some mall food-court Chinese, which was oily, gross, but somehow very satisfying at the time.

Anyway, wanted to describe a very, very good meal I had in Marseille at a small restaurant called Resto Provencal, which serves, as you might have guessed, typical Provencal food. It's in the Cours Julien neighborhood, which is a big open-air pedestrian plaza with lots of bars and restaurants, and a lot of children playing and in general people enjoying themselves.

The restaurant itself is unassuming, but I remembered it from when I had gone to Marseille in 2003, and hell, if a meal sticks in your mind for 4 years, it must have been good (or possibly very bad). I went with my colleague and friend Erwan Lanneau and his girlfriend Vacianne, and we all decided on the 3 course prix-fixe menu, and a bottle of rose, which is what you drink in Provence in summer (in Tuscany, of course, you drink red wine. Delicious, full bodied chianti, for the most part. wine).

I started with the onion and anchovy tart, called Pissatiere, which was really fantastic- the salty anchovies and olives nicely complemented by the sweetness of the caramelized onions and the rich, very buttery pastry. I also tried a bit of Vacianne's salmon tartare, which I had back in 2003- still very good. Erwan's soupions (squid, I think, but I'm not sure), grilled, tasted fresh and firm, as they should be in a coastal town.

For the main course, I stuck to what I had eaten 4 years ago- filet de dourade en bouillabaisse- a filet of the fish dourade served in bouillabaisse, the famous Provencal seafood stew. On the side comes little toasts with an aioli-like spread called rouille. I hate to keep using the same words, but the fish was clearly fresh, and the soup surrounding it was delicately flavored- though it could have use a little more salt.

Dessert was an absurd chocolate mousse. Dark, dark, almost black, and thick, rich, and probably more calories than in the rest of the meal, it sent me almost into a stupor- luckily E. and V. then took me out for a digestif, a fiery pear brandy, which was the perfect restoring tonic.

As you can see, I'm missing being in France.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

North Carolina Historic Barbecue Trail

I like North Carolina. I like BBQ. Who's in for a mid-fall trip?

From this article:

The non-profit North Carolina Barbecue Society speaks of barbecue in terms of culture, heritage and tradition. Earlier this year, the society created a historic barbecue trail spotlighting 25 joints from Ayden in the east to Murphy in the west. Each stop on the trail specializes "in roasting pig the old-fashioned way, slowly over pits of wood or charcoal," the society notes. The cited businesses also have to make their own sauce, be in business more than 15 years, provide sit-down service and provide a final product "that is a high quality representation" of the state's barbecue.
Very cool. 25 historic BBQ places serving pork the traditional way? Luckily, the North Carolina Barbecue Society has a website.

This is a link to the description of the historic BBQ trail.

This is a link to the map of the trail.

Who's it? I'm not saying we could hit all 25 places in one trip, but we could start on one side or the other and get as far as we can in an allotted time.

Surprise! New post!

It's just a link, but it's the type of thing that makes me excited about food.

Make your own what?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Tu peux pas test (Part 1)

Bonjour. Or, should I say, bonsoir, since it's night here in Stone Harbor. It is, however, early-ass morning in Brussels, where I was just this morning, or rather, late last night in Jersey time. Confused? Me too, but here's the short version: I went to Brussels from M-F this week to check out an MBA program. I don't think it'll pan out, but I did get to sample some fine Belgian cuisine. Let's start at the beginning:

Day 1 - Dans Bruxelles Straight Up, Son
I unfolded myself from sitting in Row 101B in ultra-slim coach seating on Continental's joyful Newark-Brussels night flight. Katie met me at Schuman (you know, Schuman...the Metro stop, duh) and escorted me to her flat in the Sant-Gilles commune (neighborhood, not an actual commune, I was displeased to find). I don't recall eating much, since I'd gorged myself on TCBY, protein shakes, and pizza in the Newark airport (gimme a break, I was there for six hours). I went to bed. I awoke and did some other stuff. You can thank me later for skipping all the non-food stuff and cutting to the chase. If you wanted more Drew Coursin action, you'd have been an avid reader of my heretofore nonexistent travel blog...but it's Scrump, so, whatever.

Katie and I went to the great pizza place, which doesn't sound like much, but was exciting because there was an excellent variety, from aubergine- and pesto-topped (that's right, I've stopped using the word 'eggplant,' it's crude) pie to prosciutto and peppers. Yum! AND the pizza came in these giant slabs monitored by these petite femmes with pruning shears. Basically, I pointed to a type of pizza and made hand signals for how much, and the girls went to town with the scissors and cut me a custom-sized slice. THEN I paid by weight, which I found just delightful. Call me a sucker for the metric system.

Whew, just writing that little bit was exhausting, so I'm off to bed for now. See Part Deux tomorrow!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Pictures of dessert.

I know pictures aren't the be-all and end-all when it comes to food, but I had to put up a couple of dessert pictures. Nicole was here in Pisa this week, and so we went out for some very nice meals at some nice trattorias and osterias. Here are two standout desserts we had:

First, on my birthday, we had a Lemon Sorbet in Prosecco at the Osteria De Cavalieri, which I've mentioned before. Prosecco is sort of an Italian Champagne, basically sparkling white wine. The tartness of the sorbet and the dryness of the wine work beautifully together:

Last night (Saturday), we went to a trattoria, whose name I sadly don't remember, but we had what the waitress simply described as "chocolate cake". It didn't do it justice. Moist, souffle-esque, and accompanied by perfectly ripe apricots.